Conversation at Night With a Despised Character
  • By Isla VT
  • |
  • 6th Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★

In a totalitarian state, a writer of controversial literature is about to be killed by an executioner, and he’s expecting him. What follows is a conversation between the two considering death, life, and habit, before the executioner’s fatal task takes place. Judging by the accents, this production was set in Russia, one assumes in the time of the Soviet Union. Simply set – cardboard boxes, chairs and few props - the most complex part is the wordy and philosophical script, which at times I felt would have been more enjoyable to read than to see onstage. Due to this wordiness, the pace of the production and the dialogue between the two characters tended to drag a little, weighed down by heavy ideas. In addition, the accents, which for the most part were well executed, seemed to limit the vocal expression of the actors, making it a little monotonous at times.

The strong performances of the cast, who were credible and consummate throughout, are the best thing about this production.

However, on the whole the performances of the two actors were excellent – bringing out moments of humour, passion, desperation, and the struggle of power. The energy and tension was a little lacking at first between the two actors, but it gradually built to be engaging and effective. The script had moments of intrigue and beautiful speeches, but did not always hold my attention – this is a play in which nothing much happens at all. The strong performances of the cast, who were credible and consummate throughout, are the best thing about this production. It would benefit, perhaps, from greater tension between the characters and more varied blocking, as the actors were often static, making the long winded speeches drag all the more.

If you are looking to see two talented actors performing a dense and philosophical discussion about death and execution in a totalitarian state, then you will love this. 

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The Blurb

Friedrich Durrenmatt's tale of a subversive writer in a totalitarian state visited by an executioner sent by the regime to kill him. Translation by Robert David Macdonald. The Refuge Theatre is a veteran artists' haven created for work off the beaten path; a back-to-the-basics return to acting utilizing the dramatic one-act form: begin with an empty room then experiment, develop, and build from an artist's lifetime of instincts and experiences. The Refuge is an organic gathering of skills, possibilities, and love of craft.